When Good becomes Evil

I’m angry and approaching livid.

It upset me when I read the account of a 10-year-old boy in Tarboro, North Carolina, who was recently disciplined by his fifth-grade teacher for referring to her as “ma’am.”

Teretha Wilson said she noticed something was wrong when Tamarion got off the school bus from North East Carolina Preparatory School. “I asked him what happened,” she explained. “He said he got in trouble for saying ‘yes ma’am.’”

Tamarion pulled out a sheet of paper with the word “ma’am” written on it four times per line on both sides. He says his teacher told him to write the word on the sheet because he kept referring to her as “ma’am” despite her instruction not to. As part of his punishment, Tamarion also had to have the paper signed by a parent.

The next afternoon, Mrs. Wilson met with Tamarion’s teacher and the school’s principal. Mrs. Wilson also brought a separate piece of paper on which her son had written the definition of ma’am. (According to the Oxford Dictionary, ma’am is defined as “a term of respectful or polite address used for a woman.” The dictionary in my study adds, “…especially for a woman in authority.”)

I wonder how Tamarion’s teacher might have responded if the young boy had, like so many today, simply smarted off in class? Would she have responded as severely? I don’t apologize for using the word severe to describe a teacher humiliating a child who has been taught by his parents to show respect for adults. Honestly, I question who was the “childish” one in the classroom that day?

I suspect the prophet Isaiah might have responded, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

Just writing those words from Isaiah retrieves the memory of an autumn Sunday afternoon in the late 1950s. My uncle was listening to The Hour of Decision radio broadcast with his head literally bowed over the radio. Billy Graham had chosen the above text from Isaiah for his sermon—a sermon so powerful I can still hear his voice pronouncing Isaiah’s curse on those who dare call evil good and good evil. Billy was livid as he preached against the gross moral degradation in America back then in the “Leave it to Beaver” era. (Some of you younger readers may need to ask your grandparents about the Beaver.) Billy was warning about God’s judgment on cultural sins; things that now seem almost innocent. Billy Graham and Isaiah could have been describing our contemporary culture.

Before I continue, please hear my confession. My first sentence in this blog is not true. Sure, I was a little angry when I read about Tamarion Wilson being disciplined for calling his teacher “ma’am.” It wasn’t fair. In fact, it was downright wrong. Was I livid? No, not really. After briefly venting I forgot about all about Tamarion.

If you are really interested in seeing me reach “livid” on the anger chart, you need to be here the next time I receive another robocall offering me a low or no interest Visa account. Just got another call a couple of hours ago.

This company has harassed me with calls for almost two years. I have reported them to the government “no call” Website; I have punched #3 on the phone, as per their instruction, to say that I do not want to be called again. I’ve told them again and again (and again) that I am not interested. I have asked to speak to their supervisors who always promise to remove me from the list. On one occasion I actually threatened to come to Atlanta and hunt them down.

That’s livid, I guess.

But it’s also a shallow, selfish, rather carnal response to a minor irritation.

Unfortunately, I seldom approach livid when I see real injustice or when I hear somebody justifying same-sex-marriage. Even worse, in my mind, are those who not only publicly support such behavior but also demean and attack anybody who dares to disagree. That is calling what God calls evil, good.

So-called progressive thinkers today dare to call someone evil when they speak up in defense of the unborn. Perhaps you’ve heard about Chelsea Clinton’s statement that to roll back Roe vs. Wade is almost unchristian. My response? When is it unchristian to defend those who have no voice? “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”

Throughout the Bible, God clearly declares His concern for the vulnerable and warns those who would dare to oppress them. Who among us is more vulnerable than little children—whether in the one-time security of the womb or the classroom? Who is more vulnerable than newly arriving immigrant children? How about the elderly—once on the protected list, but today too often neglected, defrauded or even physically abused?

When did our culture get turned so upside down that wrong became right and right, wrong?

I am convinced the battle against the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was less about his qualifications or character than the fear of having another conservative justice with traditional social values on the Supreme Court. It was more about being free to call evil good than doing something righteous.

To illustrate my point, consider Senator Cory Booker’s public comments back in July, shortly after President Trump nominated Kavanaugh and prior to any of the charges of rape Christine Blasely Ford leveled against the candidate. Booker used Scripture (Psalm 23 and credited it to Abraham not David) and stated that Kavanaugh was “evil” and anyone who supported his nomination was “complicit in evil.” Remember, these statements were made before any charges had been made against the justice’s character.

I can’t declare Justice Kavanaugh innocent or guilty. God knows every heart. But I am angry about the façade of liberal Democrat senators pretending their opposition to Kavanaugh was about something moral and good. Call it what it was! An effort to preserve status quo where right is considered wrong and wrong is right.

So is it right to be angry—even livid—today when I see wrong being justified? You bet it’s okay! God set the example throughout history.

If you think I speak as an old man, you’re correct. I grieve for the world we are creating for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. But I am encouraged when I remember there will be a day when God will have the last word—when the One true, righteous Judge renders the final verdict. He is the one true Supreme Court over all nations and every person who has ever lived, including Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and even a group of senators playing charades.